Medicinal chemistry is a discipline at the intersection of chemistry, especially synthetic organic chemistry, pharmacology and various other physico-chemical and biological areas, involved with design, chemical synthesis and development of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs). See IUPAC definition. http://www.chem.qmul.ac.uk/iupac/medchem/ix.html
Most APIs are organic compounds, usually divided into two broad classes of either small organic molecules (e.g., atorvastatin, fluticasone, clopidogrel) and "biologics" (infliximab, erythropoietin, insulin glargine), the latter being most often medicinal preparations of proteins (natural and recombinant antibodies, hormones, etc.). Inorganic and organometallic compounds, although not as often, can be also useful drugs (e.g., lithium and platinum-based agents such as lithium carbonate and cis-platin.
In particular, Medicinal Chemistry in its most common guise—focused on small organic molecules—encompasses synthetic organic chemistry, aspects of natural products and computational chemistry in close combination with chemical biology, enzymology and structural biology, together aiming at the discovery and development of new therapeutic agents. From a practical point of view, it involves chemical aspects of identification, and then systematic, thorough synthetic modification of new chemical entities to make them suitable for therapeutic use. It includes synthetic and computational aspects of already existing drugs and agents in development in relation to their bioactivities, understanding their structure-activity relationships (SAR).
At the biological interface, medicinal chemistry combines to form a set of highly interdisciplinary sciences, setting its organic, physical, and computational emphases alongside biological areas such as biochemistry, molecular biology, pharmacology, toxicology, and veterinary and human medicine, systematically oversee altering identified chemical agents such that after pharmaceutical formulation, they are safe and efficacious, and therefore suitable for use in treatment of disease.Back
Training in Medicinal Chemistry
Medicinal chemistry is by nature an interdisciplinary science, and practitioners should have a strong background in organic chemistry, which must eventually be coupled with a broad understanding of biological concepts related to cellular drug targets. Scientists in medicinal chemistry work are often industrial scientists, working as part of interdisciplinary teams that use their chemistry abilities, especially, their synthetic abilities, to use chemical principles to design effective therapeutic agents. Most training regimens include a postdoctoral fellowship period of 2 or more years after receiving a Ph.D. in chemistry. However, employment opportunities at the Master's level also exist in the pharmaceutical industry, and at that and the Ph.D. level there are further opportunities for employment in academia and government.
Graduate level programs in medicinal chemistry can be found in medicinal chemistry departments, traditionally associated with schools of pharmacy, and in some chemistry departments.
In discovery of small molecule therapeutics, an emphasis on training that provides for breadth of synthetic experience and "pace" of bench operations is clearly present (e.g., for individuals with pure synthetic organic and natural products synthesis in Ph.D. and post-doctoral positions, ibid.). In the medicinal chemistry specialty areas associated with the design and synthesis of chemical libraries or the execution of process chemistry aimed at viable commercial syntheses, training paths are often much more varied (e.g., including focused training in physical organic chemistry, library-related syntheses, etc.).
As such, most entry-level workers in medicinal chemistry, especially in the U.S., do not have formal training in medicinal chemistry but receive the necessary medicinal chemistry and pharmacologic background after employment—at entry into their work in a pharmaceutical company, where the company provides its particular understanding or model of "MedChem" training through active involvement in practical synthesis on therapeutic projects. Hence, although several graduate programs offer Ph.D. and postdoctoral training in medicinal chemistry, the broader education of a top-tier synthetic or physical chemistry graduate program most frequently provides the entry level skills sought for industrial medicinal chemistry.Back
The Paul Ehrlich MedChem network has been created by a group of European Universities having PhD programs of Medicinal Chemistry, with the purpose to collaborate, interchange programs, staff, students, and generate activities which would improve the standards of their research and training activities.
Pharmaceutical Industry is an industrial sector with a high percentage of its investment in R&D activities, mainly centred in the efforts required to place new active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) in the market. Increasingly, this process requires collaboration between public and private institutions, to train the required workforce, and to develop new knowledge with the target to cure or improve the patient’s life.